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Typhoon Haiyan: Pleas for contact fill social media sites following Philippines typhoon

A screen shot from the Facebook page of GMA News, part of a Philippines-based media network.
A screen shot from the Facebook page of GMA News, part of a Philippines-based media network.

With telephone communication still not an option in the worst-stricken areas of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, social media has become a fallback resource for those seeking news of loved ones and others hoping to help connect families.

Related: Updated typhoon coverage, resources, and location tools

The Facebook pages of Philippines-based and Filipino American media outlets, hometown groups and others have become bulletin boards of sorts - displaying photos and pleading messages in Tagalog and English from people trying to locate relatives.

"Hi Good day!" one woman posted on the Facebook page "I Love Tacloban," referring to the city hardest hit by the storm."Can you please check our family/relatives at Basioville, Tigbao, Diit, Tacloban City."

Her post ticks off a long list of names - relatives that she's hoping to hear about.

Twitter has also become a missing-persons bulletin board, with people posting the names and sometimes photos of missing friends and family members, like this recent message:

Media outlets followed by Filipino Americans have been posting information on how to help, including lists of known survivors. They have also become social media clearinghouses for those seeking to connect.

On its Facebook news page, for example, the Philippines-based GMA Network has information in English, which is especially useful to those abroad who are publishing links to lists of known survivors and casualties, as well as the Google People Finder application specific to the disaster.

Photographs of typhoon victims interviewed by reporters and people who have appeared on video are also being posted to the  GMA network's Facebook page, as are handwritten notes collected from survivors - some on scraps of paper, or even paper plates - hoping to reach worried relatives far away.

"Auntie, we need help!" one note reads. "Please! We are okay but the house is destroyed."

Some convey more somber news: "Don't worry we're all safe, except the wrecked house," another note reads. "Ging-Ging and Son was found dead. Please inform Mana, mano, Ed and Madayday."

One problem is that while people outside the Philippines and in less-affected areas can post queries, those in areas still lacking phone and internet service have no way of reaching them, said Isabel Flores Bito-Onon, who works on The Sansu Show, a Filipino American variety talk show produced in the Bay Area that, until recently, broadcast on GMA.

"Some ask news reporters if they can give a shout out to their families outside the area to give them updates," Bito-Onon wrote in an email.

In one recent news report, shaken survivors spoke on camera to relatives they hoped were watching - among them a woman who tearfully relayed the message that she was the sole survivor among her immediate family. The demand for contact is so great that the network is planning to broadcast more survivors' messages during a live-streamed broadcast from Tacloban, Bito-Onon said.

Official means of making contact are in the works, too. The American Red Cross has set up a family tracing service for those affected by the typhoon that can be accessed online, or by phone in the United States at (626) 407-4536.